Back in March, Sixers President Daryl Morey, then the GM of the Houston Rockets joined ESPN’s Zach Lowe’s “The Lowe Post Show” podcast. Morey shared some insights of his that could become relevant as trade talks heat up this winter. Of course, by now you’ve heard the rumor that Houston’s perennial MVP candidate and scoring champion, James Harden, wants a trade and has named Philadelphia as one of his preferred destinations. So what are some of Morey’s thoughts about trading away assets? We know he famously traded multiple first round picks, and more for Harden, with the help of his top Lieutenant at the time, Sam Hinkie, back in 2012. We know he traded a slew of useful veterans, (like Lou Williams, Pat Beverley, and Montrezl Harrell) a pick and more for superstar future Hall-of-Famer Chris Paul. And remember back to when (with Harden and Paul both signed long term) he offered four future first round picks for superstar Jimmy Butler? Next he sent out Paul and considerable draft compensation for Russel Westbrook. And perhaps not considered a blockbuster, but he did make the major decision to trade center Clint Capela for former Sixer, the 3nD prototype Robert Covington, going all-in on a small-ball, 3 point-heavy style last season.
So clearly, if Morey believes he has a chance to win the title, he’s not going to be shy or terribly stingy with his future picks.
Stuff he’s recently said about trading picks
Here is something intriguing he shared with Lowe last winter when asked if he got enough value for the assets he traded away while with the Rockets:
“....I don’t understand the teams that hang onto their picks when they’re close like this....You should when you’re close and for us [Houston] that’s above 5 percent chance to win the title, which we’re comfortably over right now....to the extent the league limits it, [with The Stepien Rule] I think it makes sense to go to the max when you have a chance, ‘cause honestly, generally when teams drop out of contention, the average time they get back to contention is 8 years....”
Listen for yourself here in case the printed word falls short of any relevant intonation or verbal subtleties:
So do the Sixers have above a 5 percent chance to win the 2021 title?
According to Vegas Insider they have a 20 to 1 chance, which roughly translates to about 4.8 percent, they round out with just below the threshold Morey discussed:
Only a week ago (prior to reports that Philadelphia was one of the “likely” landing spots for James Harden) the team had even longer odds of 25 to 1, roughly a 3.8 percent chance to hoist the Larry OB jawn.
Per Marc Stein of The New York Times:
As the NBA preseason begins tonight Philadelphia ranks as the most likely destination when the Rockets eventually reach the point of trading James Harden, league sources say— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) December 11, 2020
We might infer Vegas is “baking in” the chances “Trader Daryl” has another blockbuster up his sleeve which might enhance their title odds, at least for this coming season.
Of course, betting markets aren’t necessarily precise. Oftentimes people bet on their favorite teams, so teams in large cities wind up with shorter odds than they probably deserve. And analytically based projection sites like 538.com may offer very different forecasts.
Morey and his staff likely have their own odds in mind too. So it’s anybody’s guess if the Sixers feel they have above a 5 percent chance to win the title; or if they feel that would dramatically change should they land James Harden.
After all, if this current title-window closes, it could be another 8 years of Processing before the team is close and who knows who’ll be in charge by 2030!
Might the team look to bundle multiple picks to complement Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons? Or might they look to trade Simmons for James Harden and then use a similar package to complement Harden and Embiid? Which would be better?
Would a package of Seth Curry, Danny Green, Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton and a couple of firsts and a swap get them in the ballpark for a player like CJ McCollum if somehow things fell apart out in Portland?
It would seem based on his track record, that Morey is far more comfortable trading away mediocre veterans, prospects and picks than he is trading away superstars. In fact, of all the major deals we looked at above, the only one that really did not work out was the one time he traded away a superstar in Chris Paul. All of the other offers appear to have aged much better.
That he is more than willing to trade away picks but very hesitant to trade away superstars, should give us a clue about his reaction to an ask like Yaron Weitzman reported recently:
Re: Sixers-Harden negotiations: I'm told the Rockets have asked the Sixers for 3 first round picks in addition to Ben Simmons. As many others have reported, the Sixers so far have been unwilling to include Simmons in any proposals.— Yaron Weitzman (@YaronWeitzman) December 14, 2020
So what does my worthless gut tell me?
— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) December 15, 2020
— Ben Simmons (@BenSimmons25) December 15, 2020
Obviously, now that Simmons has Morey on the “furiously sneezing” emoji tweet train he would never trade him away, right?
It’s been a whirlwind off-season. So if I were Morey and the Sixers, I’d want the one thing they haven’t had much of...time. I’d want the trade talks surrounding Harden to stagnate. I wouldn’t want any of my conference rivals to push hard for him. I’d want to generate as large of a sample as I possibly could with my own team and study my guys. I’d want to talk to my front office teammates like Elton Brand, and my coaching staff, Doc Rivers, Sam Cassell, and Popeye Jones. I’d want to hear how everyone was getting along. I’d want to analyze our shooting profile.
I’d want to stealthily shop my non-superstar assets: can I trade a combo of Danny Green and assets for a Zach LaVine? If so, would that make splurging on Harden feel much less pressing? Does one of my young players emerge and exceed his current value? It would help immensely in any negotiation if suddenly Matisse Thybulle’s 3 pointers were dropping reliably, or if Shake Milton’s newfound beach body was helping him play sturdier defense.
There’s tons of moving parts. A monster bundle of assets that doesn’t include Simmons or Joel Embiid is certainly not going to be sufficient to land Harden. But based on Morey’s comments whether they traded for Harden or not, I don’t think they’d be out of the blockbuster trade business.
I think Morey has his sights set on 3 stars. Which 3? Your guess is as good as mine. But know this: your favorite team has one of the smartest and most aggressive execs in the league so it should be fun. There’s hoops on tonight. Let’s hope the young guys look amazing, the team looks smooth, and the spacing is improved with our new shooters. That way if there are any secret blockbuster negotiations taking place, we won’t feel desperate to Shake things up.